The Washington Post has a story, excerpted below, about people who think the tanning tax is racist because it targets a service used overwhelmingly by white people. And while some critics make a good point about how that would be the story if there was a tax on a product used overwhelmingly by blacks or Asians, I think it is silly to think that racism played a role in the imposition of the tax. First of all, my recollection is that the push for the levy came from Capitol Hill, where the Democrats who hold power are almost all white. Second – and more important, I don’t sense any racism in Obama. To the extent he discriminates, it is against green – at least when that color represents money that you have that he hasn’t figured out how to grab.
When an article about the fallout from the tax — which took effect last week — appeared on the Washington Post’s Web site Wednesday, dozens of commenters questioned the tax’s legality. The case can seem deceptively simple: Since patrons of tanning salons are almost exclusively white, the tax will be almost entirely paid by white people and, therefore, violates their constitutional right to equal protection under the law. But does the argument have any merit? Not remotely said Randall Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School specializing in racial conflict and law. “There is no constitutional problem at all, because a plaintiff would have to show that the government intended to disadvantage a particular group, not simply that the group is disadvantaged in effect,” he said.